Abstract: In marine environments, conservation planners face the challenges of implementing cost-effective approaches: conservation actions must maximize environmental benefits while minimizing costs to conservation organizations and affected stakeholders. However, the availability and adequacy of required data on biodiversity, environmental services, and socio-economic costs are often limited by severe constraints on logistics, time, and money. To overcome the difficulty of acquiring comprehensive data on biodiversity as quickly as possible and for a reasonable amount of money, marine habitats are increasingly used as surrogates of biodiversity in conservation planning. Many conservation projects and academic studies use this approach, assuming it is appropriate and valid. However, most underlying hypotheses are untested or poorly tested. In this context, the main goal of this three-year project is to understand the use coral reef habitat maps as surrogates of biodiversity data for marine conservation planning. Four factors are taken into account: 1) the challenges in mapping and classifying coral reef habitats; 2) the level of information on biodiversity provided by different types of habitat maps; 3) the influence of the structure of species assemblages and conservation scenarios on the potential of coral reef habitats to serve as surrogates of biodiversity in conservation planning; and 4) the costs and benefits of using habitat-based conservation planning instead of other common approaches. The research will be undertaken in the Madang region, Papua New Guinea.
Biography: Mel studied Ecology at Paris 11 University and did her MSc. research project at Charles Darwin University, where she examined the diving behaviour of nesting Olive Ridley Turtles in northern Australia. The extraordinary diversity of people, landscapes and species in the Pacific led her to spend more than four years in the region. She worked on various projects in terrestrial and marine conservation science in Australia for the School for Environmental Research, in New Zealand for the Leigh Marine Laboratory, and in New Caledonia for the French Research Institute for Development (IRD). Her PhD aims at evaluating, for the Madang lagoon (Papua New Guinea), the potential of coral reef habitat maps to serve as proxies for information on socio-economic variables and biodiversity, for use in conservation planning.